Ex-Luton Labour Party chairman to stand as Communist Party candidate in High Town by-election

The former chairman of Luton South's Constituency Labour Party (CLP) has announced he is standing in May's local by-election as a Communist Party candidate.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 9:12 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 1:12 pm

Markus Keaney left the Labour Party last year and hopes to be elected as a councillor for High Town ward on May 6.

He claims he was suspended by Labour after criticising three councillors who breached Covid-19 regulations.

Now, Mr Keaney has found a new political home in the Communist Party.

Former Luton South CLP chairman Markus Keaney is now standing for the Communist Party in May's by-election

"There are a couple of endemic problems in High Town, which several Labour administrations have failed to deal with," he told Luton News.

"You only have to walk or drive around to see the scale of the problem.

"If elected, I will put pressure on the council to allocate funding and police resources into High Town. My main priorities will be tackling street drug dealing and prostitution, and the renovation of empty units on High Town Road.

"I'd also like to champion rent-free and rates-free periods for shops, so we can get businesses up and running."

Mr Keaney resigned from Labour after he was suspended in July last year

Mr Keaney first gained media attention in February 2019 with a stinging rebuke of then MP Gavin Shuker's resignation from Labour, predicting that Mr Shuker would be "annihilated" at the next election.

Two years on, he remains forthright in his opinions.

"When Shuker resigned, I still believed we could return a Jeremy Corbyn-run Labour government at number ten," said Mr Keaney.

"Unfortunately, that wasn't to be."

Mr Keaney at the grave of Karl Marx

Mr Keaney cited the leaked Labour antisemitism dossier, which claimed that officials had undermined the leader, as one of the reasons leading to his own break from the party.

Asked whether Corbyn lost the 2019 election fair and square, he said: "I disagree with that fundamentally.

"I firmly believe that the main reason we lost was Keir Starmer's catastrophic remain strategy. I was a member of the Co-operative Party at the same time, I attended their conference in Glasgow and it was obvious that there were manoeuvres going on.

"We had the biggest swerve to Labour in the 2017 election since 1945. It wasn't about Corbyn, it was about what he stood for. People wanted to see the type of society with proper apprenticeships and a proper NHS."

Mr Keaney backed Rebecca Long-Bailey as Corbyn's successor in the Labour leadership race, but he continued to serve as Luton South CLP chairman after Keir Starmer emerged as the winner in April last year.

Then, three months later, he was suspended.

Mr Keaney said: "I was suspended for criticising three local councillors, including the then mayor, for attending a garden party in breach of Covid restrictions and sharing pictures on social media, rubbing it in everyone's faces.

"These people were not suspended. They should have brought themselves before the local party and put their hands up straight away to the chief whip of Luton Borough Council.

"Instead, we got a mealy-mouthed non-apology which made the Labour Party a laughing stock. It was an insult to people's intelligence .

"I was speaking out at the time, saying we can't allow public servants to go around doing this - as it shows double standards.

"But in the end, it was me who was suspended, not those three.

"There was a closing of ranks and we couldn't speak about this publicly because it would reflect badly on the party.

"The best way to deal with it was to own up, take some responsibility as a party and for the councillors to admit that they were wrong.

"Why they didn't do that, I don't know."

A Labour Party spokesman has denied Mr Keaney's version of events, but stated the party will not comment publicly.

After leaving Labour, the former CLP chairman says he has found a new political home in the Communist Party.

He said: "I think it's inaccurate for people to believe the Communist Party is extreme. It's about common sense.

"We want people to be paid properly, we want them to have job security, and live somewhere where they can afford to pay rent or get on the property ladder.

"That's why I have committed to the Communist Party.

"A lot of what is said about Soviet Russia and the People's Republic of China doesn't reflect their contributions to science and technology.

"Let's not forget Soviet Russia was essential to defeating the Nazis on the eastern front in the Second World War."

Of the two available seats in May's local election - Round Green and High Town - Mr Keaney has set his sights on High Town as his best chance of getting elected.

He added: "Labour are taking the electorate of High Town for granted, expecting them to return the fifth Labour councillor to that particular seat in only ten years - this breeds apathy, as evidenced in the 23% turnout in 2019.

"I'm standing for the Communist Party to offer voters a genuine alternative, encouraging them to register to vote by April 19."

To vote in May's by-election, make sure you are registered to vote.